The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that lenders cannot take possession of a property due to missed mortgage payments without first going through foreclosure. This ruling opens the door to a federal class action spearheaded by Laura Jordan and joined by more than 3,600 borrowers. Jordan started the case after her mortgage provider seized her property following two missed payments. The lender made a forced entry into her home while she was at work and changed the locks.
While many view the lender’s actions as trespassing and theft, others in the industry say that the ruling is in conflict with many terms listed in standard mortgage agreements. The language found in many of these documents states that lenders can take several steps to maintain the value of a property that has been abandoned or is in default, including changing the locks. A brief filed by Freddie Mac supported these terms, saying that by keeping up these properties, lenders were protecting their investments and also maintaining the value of surrounding properties.
The court ruled six to three that without going through foreclosure, these lenders were violating the law. While the state Supreme Court was not hearing the case, the federal judge overseeing Jordan’s class action lawsuit asked the higher court to address the question.
Jordan’s lawyers say this may be the first time a state court has ruled against lenders in this issue.